The FTC has some­thing to tell you about those “ton­ing” shoes,

Modern Healthcare - - MODERN HEALTHCARE -

Out­liers has to ad­mit we’re not huge ex­er­cise fans. Sure, we know it’s healthy, and we’ll hit the gym to work up a sweat now and then. But shouldn’t ex­er­cis­ing be … eas­ier? Like just putting on a spe­cial pair of shoes to amp up the calo­rie-burn­ing magic? Sadly, the FTC seems to have a dif­fer­ent opinion. Ree­bok will pay $25 mil­lion in cus­tomer re­funds to set­tle charges by the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion that it falsely ad­ver­tised that its “ton­ing” shoes could mea­sur­ably strengthen the mus­cles in the legs, thighs and but­tocks. As part of the set­tle­ment, the ath­letic shoe and cloth­ing com­pany also is barred from mak­ing some of these claims with­out sci­en­tific ev­i­dence.

“Set­tling does not mean we agree with the FTC’s al­le­ga­tions,” Dan Sarro, a Ree­bok spokesman, said in a state­ment last week. “We do not. We have re­ceived over­whelm­ingly en­thu­si­as­tic feed­back from thou­sands of Easy­Tone cus­tomers.”

It’s the lat­est con­tro­versy sur­round­ing so-called ton­ing shoes, which are de­signed with a rounded or other­wise un­sta­ble sole. Shoe­mak­ers say the shoes force wear­ers to use more mus­cle to main­tain bal­ance and con­sumers clam­ored for them, turn­ing ton­ing shoes into a $1.1 bil­lion mar­ket in just a few years. Com­pa­nies such as Ree­bok, New Bal­ance and Skech­ers have faced law­suits over their ad­ver­tis­ing claims. But the FTC set­tle­ment, an­nounced Sept. 28, is the first time the govern­ment has stepped in.

The FTC took is­sue with Ree­bok’s ads that claimed its Easy­Tone footwear had been proven to lead to 28% more strength and tone in the but­tock mus­cles and 11% more strength and tone in ham­string and calf mus­cles than reg­u­lar walk­ing shoes. The FTC said it could not dis­close if it was pur­su­ing sim­i­lar ac­tions against other shoe­mak­ers.

“We think this is a real vic­tory for con­sumers,” said Dana Bar­ra­gate, an FTC at­tor­ney in­volved in the case. “We hope it sends a mes­sage to busi­nesses that if they are go­ing to make claims they must be jus­ti­fied.”

Re­becca Sayre of Seat­tle, who bought a pair of Skech­ers more than a year ago, said they made her legs stronger and pos­ture bet­ter. But, she says: “They’ve lost their lus­ter.”

So file those “ton­ing” shoes next to the Ab­dom­enizer and the Thigh­mas­ter un­der “Too Good to Be True Ex­er­cis­ing Fads.” And hit the gym.

Cop­ing with laugh­ter

Gal­lows hu­mor in medicine is not nec­es­sar­ily deroga­tory hu­mor. At least ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the Hast­ings Re­port writ­ten by North­west­ern Univer­sity Fein­berg School of Medicine bioethi­cist and Sec­ond City im­pro­vi­sa­tion com­edy in­struc­tor Katie Wat­son, who quotes a physi­cian ex­plain­ing that it’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween “whistling as you go through the grave­yard and kick­ing over the grave­stones.”

Wat­son notes that cyn­i­cal or de­grad­ing hu­mor is of­ten used by physi­cians when a pa­tient’s suc­cess­ful treat­ment re­quires be­hav­ioral changes that a doc­tor is pow­er­less to bring about. She adds that gal­lows hu­mor is of­ten com­mon among young med­i­cal res­i­dents who bear the brunt of fam­ily or pa­tient anger and are of­ten in need of food, sleep and “emo­tional safety,” so laugh­ter may pro­vide “com­pen­satory nour­ish­ment.” In fact, the ar­ti­cle be­gins with an anec­dote about how, af­ter fail­ing to save the life of a teen who was shot while de­liv­er­ing a pizza to the hos­pi­tal ER, a res­i­dent asks, “How much do you think we should tip him?”

While Wat­son ap­plauds the end of pranks that his­tor­i­cally went on in med­i­cal school ca­daver labs or jokes in­tended to ha­rass women or mi­nori­ties in di­ver­si­fy­ing work­places, she says ty­ing to sup­press all gal­lows hu­mor would not only be fu­tile, but shows a lack of em­pa­thy for clin­i­cians.

“Medicine is an odd pro­fes­sion, in which we ask or­di­nary peo­ple to act as if fe­ces and vomit do not smell, un­usual bod­ies are not at all re­mark­able, and death is not fright­en­ing,” Wat­son writes. “Be­ing off-bal­ance can make us laugh, and some­times laugh­ing is what keeps us from fall­ing over.”

The gym is wait­ing for you.

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